Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Mohawks - The Champ (1968)

Artist: The Mohawks

Album: The Champ

Released: 1968

Label: Pama

Style: Library/Jazz/Funk


  1. The Champ
  2. Hip Juggler
  3. Sweet Soul Music
  4. Dr Jekyll and Hyde Park
  5. SeƱor Thump
  6. Landscape
  7. Baby Hold On
  8. Funky Broadway
  9. Rocky Mountain Roundabout
  10. Sound of the Witchdoctors
  11. Beat Me Til I'm Blue
  12. Can You Hear Me?

Alan Hawkshaw has been acclaimed as "King of Library Music Composers" for his works in the late 60s, and on into the 70s and 80s, making stock songs for radio commercials, tv themes, and more notably for this very album. Much of his library tracks were recorded for KPM Music (a UK, production-music library owned by EMI) and later released under different names like The Mohawks or Rumpelstildtskin. He also lent production and pianist skills to Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin on their album, as well as Olivia Newton John and many others. You can find all kinds of neat information about tv jingles you might recognize by him at the wiki.

This is seriously funky business, don't let the stock music part throw you off. Apparently the jingles of yesteryear carried a lot more weight than the indie-pop-song, advertising revolution of today. (See Iron and Wine M&Ms commercial my personal, least-favorite example) You really don't hear stuff like this anymore, in fact you'd have even been hard pressed to find examples of music this good at the time it was recorded. It's the best of the best, which is probably why this album is so highly sought after by collectors and music enthusiasts alike, with many bootlegs and reissues in circulation. Apparently the real vinyl copies have a red fist on the cover, ftr.

Hawkshaw takes the lead role throughout the album on his Hammond organ, backed by a jazz orchestra made up of other session musicians. Most tracks have no vocals, and the few that have very little are mostly like background girls for the chorus. It's just good, funky jammin with wild solos by Hawkshaw throughout the album, most notably on the albums title track, The Champ. But not all of it is organs with Hawkshaw, like Funky Broadway is mostly horns swapping back and forth with eachother. Rocky Mountain Roundabout has some excellent rock-and-roll guitar stuff along with the Hammond solos, all backed by jazz horns. So much of this album is just fantastic, and you can really see how they'd all have to be studio musicians. The music is perfectly arranged, and played. These guys really know what they're doing, no doubt about that. They don't miss a note, nor is there a note that doesn't sound perfectly placed to build the song continually, even into the fadeout on some tracks.

The Champ is also a widely known song for having been sampled in so many other songs, notably because the actual word they're shouting in the songs opening and chorus is actually Tramp, which may or may not have anything to do with it's popularity amongst hiphop artists. One could also argue the point that the beat is so genuinely great, making it an obvious candidate for popularity. A list of tracks that sample The Champ is here.

This album is a true gem, and comes highly recommended by me and many, many others.

Also, I think it bears mentioning that I've seen track 2 listed as both Hip Jigger and Hip Juggler. It's hip jigger on the copy I have, but wiki says Juggler =/

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